FBI HOPES TO AVOID WACO SITUATION WITH “BLOOMSBURY WEST” GURU AND FOLLOWERS
by Brendan Schallert
Staked out in a mock-Moroccan mansion in affluent Pacific Palisades, California, members of self-ordained writing guru, S.L. “Sid” Stebel’s “Bloomsbury West” group have taken a publishing world editor hostage and say they have enough “pizza, Hershey’s miniatures, diet Coke and ink cartridges” to keep themselves happy until the editor’s publishing house agrees to publish all the group’s manuscript.
“Our best hope now is that we can negotiate them down, say to one novel, a collection ofstories, some paperback rights,” said Lieutenant Galassi of the FBI’s Literary Task Force, noting, “I doubt there’s enough trees in the world to publish everything this group has cranked out!”
“They invited him out there, even paid his air fare,” said the editor’s underpaid assistant. “They said it was a writers’ conference and sent a picture depicting women in bikinis gathered around laptops floating in a swimming pool!”
Stebel is a mature, well-respected author and teacher riding the success of his best-selling tome “Double Your Creative Power!”, but the controversy has raised questions about Stebel’s ethics. A disgruntled ex-group member who asks anonymity has charged, “He should’ve called the book “Double Your Sexual Power!” I think it’s a harem is what he’s got himself. Just look at the pregnancy rate in that group of his!” When asked about the few male members of the group, Mister Anonymity scoffed, “Eunuchs or boy toys!”
Group members, who have been rejected by some of the best editors in the publishing world, seemed unfazed by all the attention, and have been communicating with the press via E-mail. “Would you like to see a synopsis of my newest book?” queried one Brandon Scarlett. When asked about the anonymous allegations, Scarlett retorted, “I’m no Eunuch!” but seemed hesitant to respond to other charges.
Stebel’s book has already stirred controversy with some buyers: “My wife’s creativity has gotten out of hand,” complained one husband, “she’s turning her meatloaf into creative works. Do you know what it’s like to eat meatloaf shaped like an elfin creature?”
In addition, crime rates in areas where the book has been sold seem to be on the rise. “Not surprising,” said an anonymous informant for the Yucaipa Police Force, “He’s suckered all these people into giving up their day jobs so they can write the great American novel.”
This reporter was allowed inside the “compound” under the condition Stebel and the group were allowed to proof-read and edit his copy. “We’ll probably have some pickies,” Stebel commented.
This reporter has spent time in Bosnia, Somalia, and even on a cruise ship with Kathie Lee Gifford, but nothing prepared him for what he saw inside the compound. A huge likeness of Ray Bradbury had been rendered in chocolate, smeared on a wall, underneath which a number of writers were chanting, “THE BEST WRITING TEACHER THAT EVER WAS!” Meanwhile, a paternal, strangely familiar-looking rotund bearded man was playing the piano and singing Christmas carols non-stop.
The hostage/editor was surrounded by three writers who were reading first draft material to him, all at the same time, very dramatically. Another writer wrote in permanent marker on the naked editor’s body, “You write very well, and will no doubt be a huge success, but I must say no to your manuscript,” as someone else alternated between applying White-Out to the editor’s toenails and stamping REJECTED on his forehead.
In another corner of the room, a pony-tailed young man wrapped in burlap, hugging himself, chanted “I will make my subconscious my partner…” Meanwhile, “The Prophet”, as his students call Stebel, was standing in front of a Happy Cooker Bar-B-Q, dropping page after page of one writer’s manuscript into the fire. “The writing process is a search for meaning,” he laughed, as a young woman knelt at this feet and flogged herself with rejection letters.
When asked how long they were willing to continue their seige, all the writers seemed of the same opinion: “I think there’s some really good material here, lots of conflict” one said, “it’s a novel waiting to be written.” “If nothing else,” commented another, “I think we’ve got enough for a movie of the week.”
Just then a loud thunk sounded near the front door. Moving like jungle cats, each member of “Bloomsbury West” took their assigned positions, including one who manned a huge rubber band which he loaded with computer discs and others who made ready with the sharp edges of envelopes — “Death by paper cuts!” one of them cheered. Stebel approached the door, opened it quickly, and hauled in a manuscript box. “Another rejection,” one of the group whispered. Stebel cradled the box in his arms, then cried out, “THE HORROR, THE HORROR!”